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TRIP, Wolf Creek

Discussion in 'Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group' started by Charly Oliver, Jun 12, 2002.

  1. Mike Dallin, Phillip Rhodes and I had a great time down in the San Juans this past weekend. In spite of continuing drought conditions and apocalyptic fires, the San Juans are beautiful and there is plenty enough water running in Wolf Creek to have a good time.

    Phillip and I did an exploratory hike on Saturday that revealed a beautiful canyon with at least nine waterfalls. The upper part of the canyon is V-shaped and fairly open so we were able to find places to scramble down and scope out eight different waterfalls, up close and personal. The majority of the falls were in the 20' to 25' high range with one of them measuring about 50'. The river in this section is fairly flat between drops and their are no real narrows to speak of. This part of the canyon however, is situated in the beautiful high mountain environment of the Weminnuche Wilderness and is as you would expect, incredibly scenic.

    Unfortunately, we were unable able to gain close access to the best part of the canyon, a section where the canyon narrows and drops 600' in a quarter mile. The USGS map shows only two waterfalls in this section, but I can't imagine they are the only ones. The shit just drops way too fast through too narrow a gorge for these to be the only waterfalls. I expect this section will turn out to be quite interesting. I'll keep you posted.

    We hooked up with Mike at the Treasure Falls turn out bright and early on Sunday morning. We had planned to get together Saturday night but dinner with a friend in Pagosa and a soak in the hot springs afterwards didn't get us back to our agreed upon meeting place until late. When Mike didn't find us there he poached a campsite elsewhere and just met us the next morning at Treasure Falls.

    Wolf Creek on Sunday was a blast. The sky was clear and air temps were warm. The water as expected, is running lower than normal for this time of year. Levels were similar to what I've encountered much later in the fall. This meant conditions were not as scary as a normal June descent but less water offered multiple options at all drops.

    Phillip had never been in a wet canyon before so he was on the "sink or swim" learning curve. After the first waterfall he was grinning from ear to ear. His only comment was "I'm hooked!" Water levels allowed us to take the second waterfall down the chute on the left, which is in my opinion the most fun option at that drop.

    At the third waterfall Phillip's eyes grew as big a saucers. As you would expect, the roar of the waterfall in that narrow defile was deafening and even though the volume of flow was lower than normal we found the boil at the bottom to be no less intimidating. Mike and I just grinned and assured Phillip he would love it. And of course, he did. The remaining five waterfalls went without a hitch and the hump out of the canyon back up to the highway seemed shorter this time, if no less grueling. Must be getting used to it or something.

    We took a brief break to grab some lunch and spot a car at the bottom of Lower Wolf Creek, then geared up for the afternoon. Standing there beside the highway in wet suits and helmets turned heads in just about every car that drove by. Wet suits, climbing ropes and helmets. What's up with that? Phillip couldn't resist putting on my diving mask and playing "bait the tourist". We were all laughing pretty hard.

    Where Upper Wolf Creek can feel a little narrow and dark, Lower exhibits a more sunny and friendly countenance. The first two falls and downclimbs went fairly quickly. At the third waterfall, we passed on the guided rappel so Phillip could experience the full value of this swimmer. While we were there I took advantage of the opportunity to swim under the huge boulder and checked out the depth of the pool on the left side. Unfortunately, I encountered a few big submerged boulders and didn't dive to check out the depth in the boil. In higher water this might just end up being an awesome jump.

    The narrows were spectacular as always and I started switching places with Mike as first one down so I could burn some film from vantage points at the bottom of the drops. We scoped the possibility of descending the fourth waterfall down the left side as the water is running at a more manageable level this summer. I think this one has the potential to be pretty cool! This section presents great rooster tails of water that promise at least two direct face shots on the way down. Not for the faint of heart.

    After the last waterfall I tried walking along a log polished glass smooth by the water, which was jammed across the creek. Only two steps across and I slipped and went for the full swimmer in a deep hole I had no idea was there. Glad I didn't find any surprises.

    I'm sure I'll be getting down into the San Juans more this summer so if anyone is interested in playing in the water, let me know.

    Charly



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